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Women’s History Month: Celebrating Women In The Arts – Spotlight On Franca Vercelloni

by Karen Tortora-Lee on March 23, 2011

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These women of the arts hail from different disciplines, but they all have an indomitable spirit and a luminescent spark that makes them amazing human beings who are out there every day, doing amazing work.

Today we continue our series with Franca Vercelloni.

The first time I saw Franca she was on a stage and I was at a table in the audience, scribbling notes about her Fringe Show Classically Trained, Practially Broke.  A lot of the notes which never made it into the review were things like “oh my god … me too” because in a lot of ways her story was my story.  But, really, Franca Vercelloni’s story is uniquely her own.

First of all, it’s impossible NOT to fall in love with Franca as she takes to the stage; she’s astonishingly gifted as a pianist, has a sparkle that starts at her eyes but soon has hit every member of the audience, and has the beauty and brains to deliver humorous monologues that keep you in the palm of her hand.

Once I saw her I knew I had to have her as the MC of The Happiest Medium’s 1st Anniversary Party - and collaborating with her was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve known.  Frankly, we laughed so much rehearsing the opening song that it’s a wonder we came off as good as we did the night of the show.  But that’s the kind of woman Franca is – she’ll put you at ease, she’ll sing you a song, she’ll flash you that gorgeous smile, and after wrapping you up in her talent and charm she’ll leave you with a warm feeling that lingers long after you’ve said your goodbyes.

Now let me turn the stage over to Franca:

I believe that female performers are at a disadvantage from the getgo. “Be thin, be young, be successful by 30 so that you will still have time to have a family.” Or, “Take some classes, get yourself ready, because you’re so specific, you really won’t start to work for 5 more years.” You must be extremely careful whose opinions you listen to, because everyone has an opinion, and many of them are not worth listening to.

You must be strong, you must be innovative, you must have a sense of humor, and, most importantly, you must be a true entrepreneur who creates opportunities for yourself. Stick to your values and your vision. I’ve had weird experiences working with some men, but since I started kickboxing, I’ve found that they consider my ideas and opinions more carefully than they used to.

I was raised by three strong women, and they raised me to be strong. When I work with men or women or anyone in between, I present myself, with all my strength and assertiveness, calm and craziness, and I am not afraid of those things in others. I try to adapt to whom I am working with and treat those people as I would like to be treated: with respect and concern. It usually works out. And if it doesn’t…did I mention that I kick-box? I also write really awesome songs about how terrible people can be. Everything is material as far as I’m concerned …

I am currently writing my next musical show, collaborating on both songs and script for a children’s television program, and writing music for a soon-to-be-produced translation of a well-known French farce. Come sing show-tunes with me at the piano at Marie’s Crisis (59 Grove Street) every Tuesday from 9:30-closing and Saturday from 6-10pm. AND come hear me and the other ladies of The Main Squeeze Orchestra when we play our all-Kurt Weill program (Girls Gone Weill) on May 5 at Drom in the East Village ( We were just featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and our debut CD is for sale on our website.

More about Franca:

Franca Vercelloni is an actor, musician, singer and writer. Classically trained in piano performance at The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, she currently plays in piano bars and teaches piano to children and adults. Her musical solo show, Classically Trained, Practically Broke, played to sold-out houses at The Club at La Mama as part of the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival and enjoyed a 5-week run at Manhattan Theatre Source as part of the 2010 EstroGenius Festival. Other appearances include: The Hampton Playhouse; Theater for the New City; Berkshire Theater Festival; Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding off-Broadway; commercials for Dunkin’ Donuts and Commerce Bank; the Housewife in Ishai Setton’s award-winning short musical comedy film The Butcher and the Housewife and Setton’s feature, The Big Bad Swim (2006 Tribeca Film Festival premiere). Stand up appearances include Stand Up New York, The Comedy Cellar, and Gotham Comedy Club. Franca plays accordion with the all-female, all-accordion Main Squeeze Orchestra (recently featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”). Franca is a member of AEA, SAG, AFTRA and AFM Local 802.

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